We didn’t know it at the time, but the 1965 Yankee spring training camp would be the last one hosting a defending AL Champion ball club for quite a while, over a decade to be exact. It was Johnny Keane’s first exhibition season as the manager of the Bronx Bombers after he replaced the fired Yogi Berra. Keane’s Cardinals had defeated Berra’s Yankees in the 1964 World Series the previous fall. New York GM, Ralph Houk had already made the decision to fire Berra before losing that Series, convinced his veteran club needed more discipline. Houk felt Keane was the guy who could instill it.
The new skipper’s innovative idea was to move New York’s big hitters like Mantle, Maris and Ellie Howard to the very top of the Yankee lineup so they could get more at bats. The plan was working like a charm during spring training. Mantle actually batted first in some of that year’s preseason games with Maris second and Howard in the three-hole and they all were hitting over .400 at one point.
The other exciting thing about that ’65 camp was the emergence of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as a bonafide Yankee pitching prospect. Gil Blanco was a big six feet five inch right-hander from Phoenix who had been signed by New York right out of high school the year before. Just nineteen years old, he impressed everyone with his poise and stuff that spring and earned a spot on the Yankee roster.
Though the team started out the 1965 regular season slow under Keane, Blanco did not, holding the opposition scoreless during his first seven big league appearances out of the bullpen. That streak earned him his first start at the end of May versus Detroit and the kid got hammered. He gave up three hits, two walks and four runs and didn’t make it out of the first inning.
That turned out to be the only start he’d make while wearing the pinstripes. He failed to make the Yanks 1966 Opening Day roster and that June, Houk traded Blanco, Bill Stafford and Roger Repoz to the A’s for Fred Talbot and Bill Bryan. He got the opportunity to start for Kansas City during the second half of that season, but after finishing 2-4, he would never again throw a pitch in the big leagues.
In 1951, ’52 and ’53, first baseman Eddie Robinson was in the peak years of his Major League Baseball career. Like many players of his era, that career was interrupted early by military service in WWII. Three seasons after Robinson returned from the war, the trades that marked his entire career began. He went from the Indians to the Senators in 1949 and then to the White Sox during the 1950 season. By 1952, however, it looked like he had found a home in the Windy City. He had put together two straight 100 RBI seasons for Chicago, making the All Star team both years. But instead of settling in, Eddie was traded again, this time to the Athletics, who were still in Philadelphia at the time. In the “City of Brotherly Love,” he combined with slugger Gus Zernial to provide the A’s with most of their offense as he reached the 100-RBI mark and made the All Star team for the third year in a row. That’s when the Yankees got him as part of a huge ten player deal that turned out not to have much positive impact for either team.
Simply put, the Yankees did not need the guy. George Weiss thought Robinson would replace the lighter hitting Joe Collins as the Yankee starting first baseman. The crafty GM, however, did not anticipate that rookie Moose Skowren, a powerful right hand hitting first baseman would hit .340 in 1954. Stengel ended up platooning Skowren at first base with Collins, who was the best fielder of all three players and used Robinson more as a pinch hitter. Eddie did very well in that role for two plus seasons in the Bronx but it was truly a waste of the overall talents of this four-time All Star.
In June of 1956, Weiss traded Robinson back to the A’s, who by then had relocated to Kansas City. Unfortunately, Eddie was already 35-years old at the time and he never again would be the hitter he was when New York acquired him three years earlier. When Eddie hung up his spikes in 1957, he began a career in baseball’s front offices that continued through 1996 when he finally retired as head of scouting for the New York Yankees.
Another Yankee born on this date was this AL Rookie of the Year winner in 1968.
|CLE (5 yrs)||264||968||876||113||222||30||6||34||144||2||69||67||.253||.311||.418||.729|
|NYY (3 yrs)||199||439||369||43||85||11||0||24||80||0||60||50||.230||.348||.455||.803|
|CHW (3 yrs)||425||1822||1582||226||468||67||8||71||294||4||207||131||.296||.384||.483||.867|
|WSH (2 yrs)||179||759||656||87||185||31||5||19||91||3||92||34||.282||.378||.431||.809|
|KCA (2 yrs)||231||887||787||77||186||33||5||24||114||1||89||76||.236||.319||.382||.701|
|BAL (1 yr)||4||4||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||.000||.250||.000||.250|
|DET (1 yr)||13||13||9||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||0||.000||.308||.000||.308|
Bahnsen was a real cornhusker, who was born in Council Bluffs, IA, in 1944 and played baseball for the University of Nebraska. He earned AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1968 when he won 17 games in his first full season in pinstripes and posted an incredible earned run average of just 2.05 runs allowed per nine innings pitched. I remember that season well. The Yankees had finished in last place in 1966 and next to last the following year. When they added the 23-year-old Bahnsen to a starting rotation that already included Mel Stottlemyre and Fritz Peterson, who were both just 26-years old at the time, things finally began looking up for New York.
In doing research for this post, I came across a very funny story involving Stan. It seems that in addition to being a wife swapper, Fritz Peterson was one of the Yankee’s all-time practical jokers. He used to always carry a set of padlocks with him and one day, after the final game of a Yankee series, he padlocked Bahnsen’s buckled shoes together. There was a bus outside the stadium waiting to take the Yankees to the airport to catch a plane to LA. Manager Ralph Houk and a bewildered Bahnsen were the last two people in the Yankee locker room. When Houk saw Bahnsen sitting there with no shoes on he told him to finish dressing and get on the bus. When Bahnsen told him he couldn’t put on his shoes, Houk asked him why. When Bahnsen told him that Peterson had locked his footwear together, Houk just about had a fit.
Bahnsen won 37 more games as a Yankee starter during the next three seasons before being traded to the White Sox in 1972 for a guy named Rich McKinney. He proceeded to win 21 games during his first season in the Windy City. He then went 18-21 the following season and then his right arm began rebelling. He had pitched over 950 innings in four seasons in New York and then over 750 more during his first three years with the White Sox. He ended up his 16-year big league career in the bullpen, retiring after the 1982 season with a 146-149 record.
The “Bahnsen Burner” shares his December 15th birthday with this former Yankee first baseman Also, at the end of yesterday’s PBB post recognizing John Anderson, who was the first native Norwegian born Yankee, I asked who was the second Yankee to be born in Norway and gave the hint that he had been catcher Bill Dickey’s backup for most of the thirties. The correct answer is Arndt Jorgens.
|MON (5 yrs)||21||22||.488||3.93||204||26||60||3||1||17||437.0||421||212||191||47||168||249||1.348|
|NYY (5 yrs)||55||52||.514||3.10||153||139||10||36||8||2||985.2||901||382||340||88||312||534||1.231|
|CHW (4 yrs)||55||58||.487||4.08||135||130||3||31||6||0||818.1||861||412||371||68||340||410||1.468|
|OAK (3 yrs)||15||16||.484||3.53||67||32||17||3||1||1||265.0||236||113||104||20||93||152||1.242|
|CAL (1 yr)||0||1||.000||4.66||7||0||0||0||0||0||9.2||13||6||5||0||8||5||2.172|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||1.35||8||0||0||0||0||0||13.1||8||2||2||0||3||9||0.825|